Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus have both published their Projected Standings for the 2021 season. We are midway through spring training, and while there are position and roster spot battles still going on throughout the league, none of those are likely to move the needle for most teams more than half a win. There are still some free agents out there too of course, but again, none are likely to have that large an impact on paper.
Last month I took a quick look at just Fangraphs, but now we can compare to BP as well. So I thought it was a pretty good time to take a little closer look at these, compare them and average them. A quick review of how these websites come to their projections:
FG takes the average of ZIPS and Steamer projections and applies the rate of production from those to their own playing time projections to come up with Depth Chart projections. The run differentials determine the W-L record. They do not apply any consideration for “clutch”, or one run game results, etc, because those things are simply not projectable or predictable.
BP standings projections are based on their own PECOTA projections system, and again use run differentials to determine W-L record. Unfortunately BP’s projections are behind a paywall, so you can’t see the “guts” on an individual player basis unless you subscribe. But the team W/L projections at least give you an idea of how they see each team in aggregate.
The first thing I wanted to look at is where are they differ the most. This table is sorted by FG Wins Minus BP Wins. So the top and bottom of this table show the teams there is the most disagreement on.
BP Projects a march larger Win total (+11 !) for the Brewers than FG does. This is by far the biggest and most significant difference for any team. They also have the Cubs winning 7 more games. This is significant as well. Note that FG does not project any NL Central team to finish over .500
BP also likes the D-backs and Dodgers by 6 more wins. But in both cases, that difference has very little impact on playoff probability. The Dodgers still appear to be a lock while the Diamondbacks still appear to be a long shot.
On the other end of the spectrum, FG likes the Braves a lot more than BP, (7 wins) and that’s highly significant as it’s the difference of maybe making the Wild Card or not. The Tigers also have a 7 win difference but they’ll be terrible according to both systems regardless. The same goes for the Royals and Rangers. In their case, a difference of 5-6 wins still doesn’t get them close to playoff contention. But the 5 game difference for the White Sox and Red Sox could be meaningful.
Using the average between the two systems, here is what it looks like by division and league
The Dodgers still seem to win the division handily over the Padres, but the Mets have an even bigger margin over the Braves, which is surprising. Thanks to BP’s massive bump the Brewers win the Central, which again is surprising. The Padres are clear favorites for a home Wild Card game, while the Braves are seeded 2nd. The Nationals, Phillies, and Cubs are all within 3-4 games of the Braves. I’m a little surprised to see the Cardinals projected to be under .500 . There are three teams projected to be BAD, the Rockies, Pirates, and Marlins. But a lot of people like the Marlins to surprise based on last year.
In the American League, the Astros still have the best team in their division, but the Angels have made strides and could compete for the division or a Wild Card slot this year. I think we’d all like to see Mike Trout in the post season. Seems a waste they haven’t been more aggressive in the pitching market.
The Twins look to be the best team in the Central again but could be challenged by the White Sox and Cleveland.
The Yankees project to be runaway winners in the East. The Rays are projected behind the Blue Jays. While “Clutch” and one run games are random, the one thing that isn’t random is the Rays always find and develop players that everyone underrates and under project and they employ strategies that give them an edge more than most teams. So if you are looking for an over, they are perhaps a good bet.
Thanks to the Orioles, Tigers, Rangers, Royals and Mariners all being so bad, that gives a lot of AL teams chances to beat up on weak teams, so the Wild Card could be very competitive in the AL , with 7 teams all projected to be within 2 games of each other in that race.
Of course injuries and surprise breakout performances will have major impacts, as will the randomness of baseball. To finish off, I’ll direct you back to the BP Standings page, but with the instruction to scroll down past the standings. Check out the range of possible outcomes charts. I’ll post the NL West pic here, but go to the link to see all the teams. If you run enough simulations, you are going to get outlier seasons on either end of the spectrum. Of course in real life they only get to play 2021 once. But the game is played on grass, (or turf), not on paper. There are a handful of teams in each league that have virtually 0 probability of getting into the post season. The D-backs are not quite in that group, but they’re not far above it either.
In my next post I’ll try to dive a little deeper to find which D-backs players the two websites disagree the most on.